Arizona went to Berkeley with a 47-27 lead in the all-time series against California. The Wildcats had not lost to the Golden Bears since 2019, a year when UA was racked by injuries. There was no such excuse this year as Arizona was largely uncompetitive in a 3-1 (26-24, 25-20, 20-25, 25-18) Cal victory at Haas Pavilion.
Arizona ran into common problems. Those were largely problems of its own making. There were issues with defense and communication that were especially costly in the opening set.
The Wildcats came out strong. They took the 2-1 lead in the opening set and didn’t trail until 22-21. Cal went on a six-point run after trailing Arizona 21-16 and closed out the set on a 10-3 run.
The performance wasn’t all Cal’s doing. Arizona simply didn’t respond on several plays. On two occasions, Cal played the ball over the net on what should have been a free ball for the Wildcats. They turned into kills for the Golden Bears when the Arizona players simply watched the ball fall to the floor.
Arizona didn’t pick itself up after letting the first set slip away. The Wildcats fell behind after the 6-6 tie and never got close again. They trailed by as many as seven points at 21-14. The final score of 25-20 looked more respectable than it was, as Arizona never threatened Cal in the second.
In this case, it was all about what Cal did. While the Wildcats had difficulty maintaining their leads and avoiding self-inflicted injuries in the first two sets, the Golden Bears scraped and scrambled, getting to balls that looked out and winning points that looked lost.
The Wildcats finally showed some life when their backs were against the wall. They led wire-to-wire in the third set to avoid the sweep.
Cal rebounded in the fourth. The Bears ran out to a 4-0 lead and eventually led 7-1. It was no contest in the final set as the home team closed it out 25-18 without ever trailing.
It was Cal’s first conference victory since the pandemic-shortened season played in the spring of 2021. The Bears went 0-20 in the fall of 2021 and again in 2022.
Arizona was led by Sofia Maldonado Diaz with 16 kills on .205 hitting. She added an ace and two total blocks for 18 points. She also had eight digs.
Jordan Wilson was close behind with 13 kills on .188 hitting. She also had three total blocks for 14.5 points.
Jaelyn Hodge struggled, hitting negative for most of the match, but ended up with nine kills on .029 hitting. She had two assists, seven digs, and one block. She contributed 9.5 points.
Everyone else on the Wildcats’ team hit .000 or below with three players—including both starting middle blockers—hitting in negative territory.
Arizona head coach Rita Stubbs tried to get the Wildcats going with some changes in the rotation. She pulled starting libero Giorgia Mandotti in favor of Joy Galles. She also started freshman middle blocker Journey Tucker beginning in the third set.
Arizona is still searching for a reason to believe and a conference win as it goes to No. 3 Stanford on Sunday.